Hands Across the Deep by Richard M. Elam Jr.

After four earth years of space flight, the crew of the spaceship Andromeda landed on the planet of the sun Proxima in the constellation Centaurus. They were met by one of the inhabitants and brought to a village.

Slowly, in orderly fashion, the town folk came out of their houses to see the strange visitors. The people were humanoid, under five feet tall, and just as amazingly thin and bald as he who led the party from the spaceship Andromeda. Their heads were somewhat large for their bodies. Their eyes were large and luminous. Their skin had the bronze tan of an Indian. They stared in mild curiosity as the visitors passed, but Harl was certain there was no fear or great amount of excitement in their glowing eyes.

“I don’t get this at all,” Milo said to Harl. “Our arrival should have scared them to death, yet, they seemed to accept us as though they used to seeing us.”

“They looked like a retarded race,” Harl answered. “A friendly, stupid people without the sense to know when they are being threatened.”

The host led his visitors into a one-room oil-lighted house that was badly ventilated.

“Look at that bookcase,” Harl said, with a low whistle. “I guess I’ll have to take it back about their being stupid.”

The host motioned Harl to sit in a rickety chair and to start talking. He placed his small, delicate hands on Harl’s head and began staring straight ahead of him as though in a trance.

After nearly a half-hour, a halt was called in the demonstration, and , to Harl’s astonishment, the man said in perfect English, “Hellow.”

“How is that ….?” Harl said.

“… that I speak your language?” finished the man in a soft tenor voice. “You taught me. I placed my mind on what you said and the meaning of the words. I do not know all of your speech in such a short time of course, but I believe we can understand one another.”

“My name is Jhassa,” continued the man. “You must be from another land.”

“Another land, he says!” Harl chuckled. He tried to explain the enormous distance they had traveled. Jhassa nodded but did not seem very much impressed.

“We of Myr Ityra have no desire to go beyond our world,” Jhassa said. “We are philosophers and artists. To us, the mind is more important than the materials of life you call science.”

“I think you’ll admit that the marvels of physical science have their advantage too.“ Harl countered.

Jhassa began to make a case of his beliefs. He told the earthmen that the people of the red world had complete control over their desires and emotions. Everyone knew his own limitations, and there were no selfish ambitions. No hatreds, no stealing, and no murder. Each one quietly farmed and raised a family and improved his mental powers. For recreation, he went to the arts.

Jhassa proved that mind control even extended into the physical world. He showed Harl a burn on his arm that he had recently. “It does not pain,” the man said. “By centering my mind, I shut off all the feeling from the spot.”

“But how do you cure such injuries?” Harl asked.

“We can cure a small injury like this by centering our minds, too,” Jhassa answered. “But we cannot do that very well. I have a sister whose boy is very sick now with great heat in his head. He tosses on his bed and cannot control his mind.”

This was the opening Harl had been waiting for. He explained the great advances that had been made in medicine in the planet called Earth.

Harl next demonstrated the power of their electron blasters and tried to make clear to Jhassa the more simple facts about the Andromeda and space travel.

“Your science is interesting,” Jhassa admitted, “but how about the minds of your people?”

Harl had to admit that here there is room for improvement and that the science of the mind certainly had not kept up with the march of physical science. He admitted that nerves still held earthmen in a grip of fear and uncertainty.

“We have feelings,” Jhassa said, “but we use them with temperance. While we never experience great joy, neither do we permit ourselves to suffer grief. We have all been trained early in life about these things.”

“Is this mind-control business the reason why our arrival hasn’t caused much of a stir?” Milo asked.

“Yes.”

Harl was thinking of the panic and confusion that would have occurred if aliens had landed in an Earth town. Yes, he had to admit there was something to calm the philosophy of the Myr Ityrans.

Further conversation came to a halt when a man appeared at the door and handed Jhassa a message. The old man turned to Harl and with a blank face spoke words that chilled the spacemen in their grimness:

“The Kufaya has said that you must die,” the man of Ityra said, “I’m sorry foryou, but that is his decree.”

Harl’s lips curled in bitterness. “Yu have just finished telling me there is no hatred among your people, yet you are prepared to commit murder without reason!”

Jhassa raised a hand to quiet him down. “Do not excite yourselves. The Kufaya bears you no hatred. It is just that he believes you are careless, excitable race and may upset the temperament of the people or cause more destruction.”

“How does he know about us,” Milo asked, “when he has not even met us?”

“The Kufaya has met you, my friend,” Jhassa said. “The Kufaya is the greatest among us; that is why he is the Kufaya. One of the gifts he alone has developed is tele-telepathy – mind reading from a distance. He listened in on all of our conversation.”

“If he doesn’t like the way we talk, why doesn’t he just let us go away?” one of the crewmen burst out.

“The Kufaya does not want the rocket to leave the ground,” Jhassa replied, “he is afraid of the possible destruction. Some animals were killed when you landed; he thinks people may die if your fire machine should take off.

Harl broke for the doorway and looked out. Surrounding the house is an unbroken cordon were men, women and children, all of them holding stones.

“Even your methods of execution are primitive!” Harl burst out. To Milo he said, “I don’t know why we should fear this fragile army of stone throwers! We could cut them all down with our blasters, although I hate to do it.”

“Put down your weapons,” Jhassa said quietly to the men.

To Harl’s amazement, he found himself, with the rest of the men, laying his blasters on the floor in front of Jhassa’s feet.

“Controlling the wills of others is a new advancement of ours, Spacemaster Gurman,” Jhassa said. “Will you give that packet on your belt? It, too, may be a weapon.”

“Its no weapon; it’s only a first-aid kit,” Harl said. Suddenly, he had an idea. “Your nephew’s life for our lives, Jhassa,” Harl proposed. “You can loose nothing by letting us try.”

“I will get off a message to the Kufaya and see what he says,” was Jhassa’s reply.

An answer was finally brought back.

The Kufaya will let you try to help the boy,” the old man told them. “If you can cure the boy, he will be forced to release you in gratitude. But if you cannot…”

“All I can do is try and hope,” Harl said firmly.

Realizing how much was at stake, the young commander’s palms were sweating as he leaned over the pallet of the red-skinned lad. He gave the boy’s thin arm a shot of SG-41, the new ever-combating drug, which put the boy in coma.

They waited minutes, many minutes, then half an hour but the boy lay still as dead. Finally, the leader of the executioners called for the prisoners to be brought out into the middle of the circle with Harl. The commander looked regretfully at the disheartened features of his men. “I’m sorry,” he told them.

Suddenly, one of the men cried out, “Look! He is coming to life!”

The boy was stirring, just as he was about to be removed from the area. His fevered look was gone, and he sat up. He glanced around him for a moment, then swung his feet to the ground and walked calmly through the cordon of his friends into his house across the way.

Jhassa went to examine him, then came back.

“He is well,” Harl told him confidently.

“That was a fine show of Earth science,” Jhassa said. “I am glad you were successful.”

“There’s no magic in it,” Harl said. “Any of you could do the same if you had the supplies and knowledge.”

Jhassa’s meditative eyes glowed with feeling. “We want those supplies and knowledge,” he said with great earnestness. “The Kufaya said that if you cured the boy, he would like you to show us all you can about your science.”

“I have a proposal to make, Jhassa,” Harl said, “Teach us some of your mind magic and allow us to take pictures and carry on some scientific research on your planet. In exchange, we’ll tell you all you want to know about us and our ways.”

Jhassa offered his thin hand and smiled. “Let us get started, my friend.”

1 comment:

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